Demands for Afspa’s revocation grow louder in Nagaland after botched encounter

After the killings of civilians by the security forces, the demand for revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (Afspa) has grown louder. The incident happened at a time when peace talks with Naga political groups were fast-tracked and moving smoothly.

Nagaland chief minister N Rio was recently in New Delhi to take the talks forward. People in the state were expecting an “honourable solution” to the decades-old insurgency problem by the year-end.

Chuba Ozukum, advisor to Naga Hoho, the apex tribal body of Nagas, told ET: “We have been waiting for the last 24 years and were expecting the Indian government to resolve the Naga political issue. However, security forces created havoc just when a solution was in sight.”

He added: “Assam Rifles became offensive in Nagaland ever since it was ambushed on November 13.”

Militants in Manipur’s Churachandpur district had attacked an Assam Rifles convoy on November 13, resulting in the death of an Assam Rifles colonel, his two family members and four soldiers.

Naga National Political Groups had wrapped up discussion last year. The stalemate, however, continued as NSCN-IM was demanding a separate flag and constitution, which was unacceptable to the Government of India.

The Ministry of Home Affairs had extended the Afspa in Nagaland for another six months on June 30 till December 31. The Afspa has been in force in parts of the northeast since 1958. Nagaland was carved out as a state in 1963.

Ozukum said: “Just by declaring an area distributed, a jawan can shoot anyone on mere suspicion. The Afspa must be removed. So many people were killed on Saturday. It is said that it is a case of mistaken identity. Doesn’t this Act provide shield to those who commit heinous crimes?”

NSCN-IM’s Konyak national workers said the Afspa did nothing right, rather it was an Act to suppress the self-determination of Nagas. “Let this incident be the first and the last on the Naga soil. Together we will remove Afspa from the Naga soil once and for all.”

The NSCN-IM in a statement termed the incident unprecedented. It was a ‘black day’ for the Nagas as they mourn the barbaric killing of innocent villagers in Oting village under Konyak Region (in Mon district, Nagaland), it said.

The ruling party Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party has urged the state government to take up the issue of repealing the Afspa with the Government of India. Naga People’s Front, a coalition partner, has also appealed to the Government of India to immediately remove the AFSPA.

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